Updated: Nov 30, 2020
The future is bright. Amidst this tumultuous year of change, one shining light has been seeing the collective communities we’re a part of joining together to support one another. In particular, the B Corp community (B Local PDX and B Lab U.S. & Canada). Since the beginning of the global pandemic, I have seen the passion, determination and heart that the people and companies within the B Corp movement have put forth to help each other. B Corps have collaborated their way through 2020 to solve for the immediate needs of COVID-19, to take a stand against centuries of systemic racism and to take part in the global campaign to Stop Hate for Profit on Facebook and Instagram.
I’ve drawn inspiration from the work that is being done by over 3,500 B Corps (at the time of this article) like us worldwide to inform what I believe the brand promise of the future looks like. Gone are the days of shiny, feel-good “cause marketing” campaigns, now a prerequisite, and here to stay are the days where brands are held accountable to living their values, walking the talk through their actions and committing to purpose-driven impact every single day. I believe that there is a better way for brands to do business and for consumers to use their dollars to invest in the future. There is more to capitalism than making a dollar, especially if you care about doing the right thing and investing in something bigger than yourself. B Corps are leading the movement of inspired and purpose-driven companies doing just that.
At the end of the day, B Corps stand for something. B Corps have proven time and again that business can be used as a force for good. At Avenue, we are proud to be a Certified B Corporation®. It means we have met the highest verified standard of social and environmental impact. As a B Corp, it also means that we not only care about our employees, our clients, our community and the planet, but we also demonstrate that care through our daily actions and the resulting impact. B Corps are changing business and making a difference.
This post takes a look at how companies can use Values, Action and Impact (and empathy is always a bonus!) to create a durable brand promise that gives back to the world we live in.
What is a Brand Promise?
Simply put, a brand promise is a value or experience that a customer can expect to receive every single time they buy from or engage with a company. It seeks to differentiate one brand from the next, elevate a company above competitors and is a promise that becomes synonymous with the organization’s identity over time. But is that enough?
It’s important to remember that the intent of a promise is that it’s kept. A company should be careful to avoid promising something that cannot be delivered every day. Falling short on delivery will undoubtedly erode credibility and trust over time. And therein lies the challenge! The bar has been raised from the “cause marketing” and brand promises of yesteryear. Consumer expectations demand that a brand, its employees and stakeholders live, breathe and operationalize the values that are being advocated for across all functions of their business. Every. Single. Day.
I believe that the future of a brand promise lies in a company’s ability to go beyond the status quo by leaning into and living their values and taking consistent action that leads to meaningful impact. The brands who are willing and able to buckle down and do this challenging and rewarding work will reap the benefits. In short, a brand promise is not only what a consumer can expect from a brand every time they interact with it, it’s the brand’s next-level commitment to values, action and positive impact that inspires trust and loyalty.
Who Cares about a Brand Promise?
Consumers. The people who are going to buy a product or service. By now, the term “conscious consumer” is familiar with brands and marketers alike and has continued to evolve since it was first coined. Consumers are continuing to demand more transparency and accountability from the brands they buy from. And rightly so. Here’s why it’s important to understand and appreciate this evolving movement of consumers:
According to Nielsen, nearly half (46%) of consumers want to use their dollars to invest in what they believe in and are willing to pay more for socially-responsible products and services.
Two thirds (66%) of consumers around the world say they prefer to buy products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society.
These consumers also prefer to work for these companies (62%) and invest in these companies (59%).
And finally, the majority of consumers express a general preference for companies making a positive difference in the world.
Now is the time for brands to lead from the front by educating customers and demonstrating that it is possible to live your values through the purchases and choices you make. Imagine waking up every day knowing that you were going to go to work to live your values and create a more meaningful existence from the hours put in. This is a part of the inspiration that led Avenue to become a B Corp in the first place. We continue to aspire to be a company where our team members can come to work every day knowing they are putting our client’s companies, employees and communities in a better place. While B Corps are leading the way in using business as a force for good, it’s the employees and customers who are becoming the champions of the movement.
Customers are inherently attracted to and loyal to brands that are purpose-driven. People tend to consider themselves good, purposeful individuals who aspire to make the world a better place. And as such, purpose-driven brands have a unique opportunity to create a stronger, enduring emotional connection and bond with their customers. As a bonus for these companies, their values and way of doing business are magnetic to future talent, clients and partners. B Corps are the ultimate example of companies that are leading the movement of businesses as a force for good with a durable brand promise.
How to Create a Brand Promise: Values, Action and Impact
As consumers become more educated about the power of their dollar, B Corps can continue to model the collective power that buying with a purpose has on our society. The Values, Action and Impact model recognizes the potential in aligning a brand’s values with those of their customers to support action that creates a better global economy for all.
To build a durable brand promise of the future, consider these three components:
Values: The first step is to get buy-in from leadership and start by leading with your values. It will naturally follow that by demonstrating that a business can truly be used as a force for good, action will be inspired in its wake. At Avenue, I looked at the foundation that the company was built on, comprised of mission, purpose and values. This was distilled down to our purpose-driven and empathetic approach to serving our employees, our clients, our community and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and historically underrepresented entrepreneurs. We take small actions every day to uphold these values and commitments.
Action: The second pillar of building a durable and sustainable brand promise is to walk the talk, uphold the commitment, delight customers and inspire action. Leading with values will give internal and external constituents the permission to become change-makers for the company and for customers, and small actions such as registering to vote, forgoing plastic water bottles, etc. gives others the chance to make a tangible difference in the world. Engaging customers who are actively seeking a greater cause to connect empowers them to vote with their dollars and put values and beliefs into action.
Impact: Businesses are the conduit for active change snowballing into enduring customer loyalty and meaningful global impact. Change starts with individuals, soars with communities and creates lasting impact by integrating these practices into day-to-day work and life. I believe that brands who engage customers around the conscious choices they make will continue to underscore how interconnected the change we can achieve together is, resulting in ongoing impact.
When you buy from, work for, and work with B Corps, you vote for the world you want to live in. We are part of a global community of companies who are proving that business can be better for the environment, more inclusive for individuals and contribute to an equitable economy that is better for the world. These are the things customers care about.
Join the Movement!
Avenue is a Certified B Corporation®, and like the many B Corps out there, we care about people and the planet. We also endeavor to put our money where our mouth is by voting with our dollars every day. It’s our belief that we can invest our resources in making businesses better, more compassionate and creating a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Together, we believe we can change the world with the choices we make by buying from, working for and working with B Corps.
The B Corp movement is also continuing to grow. So what can you do?
And you can take the B Impact Assessment Snapshot to see where your company stands on the impact front.
This work starts with a brand promise and a commitment to the greater good. I invite you to join Avenue and the B Corp movement on this journey to creating durable, positive change in the world we love.